Mayor John Tory has suggested placing tolls on two major highways entering the city to address traffic congestion and a lack of city funding.
The plan announced Thursday would see a $2 toll placed on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. The move is expected to increase traffic flow and raise 200 million for road maintenance and transit.
For Tory, the proposed toll routes are also about equitable contribution to Toronto services. He says it is unfair that those coming from outside the city were benefitting from services paid for by Toronto taxpayers.
The hope is that a significant number of drivers begin to explore other options.
Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, explained the rational of the plan by drawing a comparison between tolls and transit fees.
Those who drive, and drive the most, have the highest incomes. And yet road use is subsidized much more heavily than transit. #Tolls
— jennifer keesmaat (@jen_keesmaat) November 24, 2016
Christine Van Geyn, Ontario director of the Canadian Tax Federation, disputes the fairness of the plan.
“It’s not some kind of luxury to sit on the DVP in traffic,” Van Geyn said. “This is a necessity of life. People rely on these roads to get into work.”
Mayor Tory stressed transparency in the use of the toll revenue, claiming that it would be put into an infrastructure fund separate from the city’s operating budget. A 5–10 per cent increase in property tax would be required to raise the same funds, he added.
Van Geyn says she’s worried about yearly increases that have plagued other services.
“We’ve seen six years of TTC rate increases,” Van Geyn said. “We should expect to see this proposed toll increase year over year once the city has the power to levy it.”
Expecting pushback on the plan, Tory encouraged residents to send suggestions on how to raise funds the city so desperately needed. Instead, he received a mixture of support and condemnation.
Van Geyn suggested that the responsibility of funding city projects had trickled down too far.
“As [Premier] Kathleen Wynne downloads purposes that were previously the area of provincial responsibility, her government escapes some of the obligations they have to the people of Toronto,” Van Geyn said. “I’m not sure why we’re letting them off the hook.”
Tory will need Wynne’s support for the plan to come to fruition. While tolls might mean less pressure on the provincial government, Wynne’s waning public support may play a role in her decision.